Sunday, 28 April 2013

When we moved from the big house it was because someone forgot to check on things and suddenly the lease on the land which had been 99 years long was...up, so the house and land reverted back to the descendants of the original owner.  Drastic news for my parents, they had only a couple of weeks to rehouse their family, so we ended up in a terraced cottage with no electricity connected, no bathroom and cockroaches carpeting the floors like shiny black linoleum.  It was a massive shock for my mother as she struggled to make a home for us.  My dad chopped-up the piano to make her a display bookcase and every Friday evening the zinc bath was unhooked from a wall outside in the yard, brought in by the fire and filled with buckets of water heated in an old boiler, for her to take the first bath.  It can only have been huge disappointment to her, she'd been brought up in a family who had been used to servants.
My sister who was twelve years older than me and was used to her own room in the big house, now had to share her space with me, a five year old.  But, how glad we were of each others company, on those first few nights when the candles were blown out, leaving only a night-light in it's saucer of water flickering in the cold darkness and there began a wailing and crying coming through the walls from our next door neighbours.  Banging on the adjoining wall was our neighbour's adult son suffering, we were told later from schizophrenia, he couldn't sleep because of the voices, but in the dark strangeness of this old cottage it seemed like we had moved into Bedlam itself.  The stairs ran adjacent to each other in the terrace and we later heard the old man from the other side stumbling up his staircase talking and talking to himself, we were hemmed in by people who had lost their minds its seemed.
 Some weeks later after he had been taken away to a hospital we learnt the story of our neighbours son, he'd been jilted at the altar by his fiancĂ©e, and back in 1954 they knew very little about schizophrenia and the connection severe stress can play in its development.
We never did find out anything at all about our neighbour the other side, apart from the fact that he was an old man living alone, who shunned contact, he never spoke to anyone except his imaginary companions.  His garden was a complete tangle of raspberry plants, so dense, that one day when I'd illicitly climbed over the wall separating our gardens so I could gorge on his luscious raspberries, crimson and jewel-like and all the more delicious in their pilfering, I was completely invisible to him when he trundled along the path with not more than a couple of yards between us, still having an animated conversation with his invisible companions.


11 comments:

L.P. said...

Wow, what a story! That must have been so frightening and strange for everyone. I hope you'll tell us what happened next...

June said...

Hi sweet friend! I always love reading your wonderful posts even when they have a little sadness in them. How hard it must have been on your mother in the move. As children though, we seem to have an innate ability to enjoy something in our surrounding no matter what they are...like you and the raspberries.
My father did road construction in the western part of the US and we as a family would leave our home in Boise Idaho for the summer and follow wherever his job took us. My mother didn't like being away for him so she would pack us up and live in some rather deplorable conditions, but we being children loved the adventure. I am grateful that my mom loved being with my father so much because I wouldn't trade some of our experiences for anything.
I am sending you wishes for a wonderful new week Jane and much love from here...

WOL said...

Wow! They say you should write about what you know, and you have the makings of a really powerful, insightful short story there. Your mother must have been a really strong person to have coped with all that. I'm glad the experience brought you and your sister closer when it could just as easily driven you farther apart.

WOL said...

BTW, you and I are the same age, although I am due to have my "Paul McCartney Birthday" in 23 days.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Jane,

This is such a fascinating reading and you are a fascinating writer. I love the way you execute the story with economy, acute observation and beauty. Your poetic vision is clean, pure and concise just like your writing!!!

Wishing you a happy weekend.

Your devoted reader,

ASD

Susan McShannon-Monteith said...

Dear Jane, I hope you are well and that Spring has arrived in your corner of the world. I was fascinated by your tale.
Also an expression of sympathy as I read that your dear mum-in-law has passed.
You must share more of your childhood adventures.
Take care...
Susan x

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Whew, Jane, what a story. You should put it into a novel. Reminds me of George MacDonald's 'The Portent'. Want to hear more.

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

Thank you SO much everyone...really glad you enjoyed it...ummh now what happened next!
;))))))

Hugs everyone,
Jane

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Isn't it amazing what we can overcome when faced with this challenge. I am so sorry for your mother as I imagine she was in cultural shock over this drastic move. Bless all of you for loving and laughing with her and the rest of the family. Bless your father for bringing in that bathtub. xx's

June said...

Hi Jane, I was so happy to hear from you! I'm always thrilled to hear from you.
I am loving the garden right now although I really have done a lot of work in it yet because of the wind we have had. I am such a mild weather gardener :)
I hope you are doing good and that your health has improved my dear friend. I wish you a wonderful summer.
sending hugs...

June said...

Oh it was so good to hear from you Jane! I think about you so often and wonder how you are. Thank you for your sweet comment..it made my day!
sending big hugs...